Dysfunctional families are a root cause of emerging youth issues in Maldivian society.
Adding complexity, youth lack supporting guidance in the educational sphere because school management and the teachers lack effective approaches for dealing with children from such families. While most families in Maldives are dysfunctional, Maldivians have a tendency to ignore problems and treat them as evils caused by others.
A child’s behavior reflects their experiences at home. When there is hostility or fighting among parents, this creates a lot of anxiety. When parents are rude and abusive towards each other, children experience insecurity. A cycle of competition, jealousy, rivalry, disrespect and forms of abuse starts amidst confusion and nervousness and thus creates the dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional families disconnect and neglect each other.
The Maldives has one of the world’s highest divorce rates. Many parents do not handle their separation maturely and can be seen to act with bitterness and revenge controlling their behavior. An unfair burden is placed upon the child during the divorce.
It is time to stop looking at where to put the blame. It is right there with parents as children learn firstly from parents. Relationships lose their magic overnight and love tanks empty out leaving a feeling of desolation and regret. Divorcing/separating parents are mostly self-centered and self-absorbed, forgetting the pain left in their children.
Children replay what they observe and experience. Children experience the feeling of loss, betrayal and being cast aside while parents tangle with resentment, sense of failure and blame, leading to self-victimisation and succumbing to revenge or silence and resignation.
In the aftermath of divorce or separation (where the father does not divorce the woman but takes a second wife), children develop identity issues as to where they stand and who they are, in relation to their parents’ foundation. Added to this confusion, children are treated as a financial burden when parents openly fight on alimony disregarding the sensitivity of the child in question. One common behavioral issue I have observed is a resentful parent labeling a child with the negative character of the other parent, destroying the child’s life further. This burden of guilt is poison that will last a long time.
Causing sibling rivalry
Sibling rivalry is often caused by parents. Conclusions are drawn in early childhood depending on the ease or stress experienced by parents. Hence a parent labels a child from the first experience of babyhood thus influencing the child’s life over the years to come.
The comparisons are voiced in phrases such as “an easy child”, versus “a difficult child”. Later: “Why can’t you be like your brother?”, “Why can’t you be obedient like your sister?” or constantly referring to the better performing sibling.
This a common occurrence at home, and puts children in competition with each other. Children are taught to compete with each other when parents consistently show favoritism or praise one child, and not another. This creates hostility and resentment. It’s difficult for siblings to be friends in adulthood when they were taught to compete as children.
Parents are the first tribe influencing their child’s belief
Most Maldivian parents do not realize they are the first and most influential role model for the child. Children shape up to parents. A child grows up influenced and shaped by the environment they live in. In the front line of tribes around the child, are the parents. Parents have a direct influence on the child’s emotions leading to behaviors and ultimately their lives, for better or for worse. If parents fail, the child will experience huge hurdles. These can only be overcome eventually.
The child is like a recorder, taking up the parent’s behavior and playing it back. How a child behaves in school or the environment outside home tells the story of what the child experiences at home. As children absorb and respond to what they experience, it requires the parents to behave with responsibility, love and respect towards each other, care for the people around them, respect the natural environment including animals, respect money and materials, being humble and grateful and be the child’s guide to become a fully developed individual to take its place in the world.
Most families have dysfunction in one way, shape, or form. It’s never safe to assume that a family is not dysfunctional just by how they act in public. This assumption makes people wonder why a child from such a “good family” or “good parent” is rebellious or resigned in class, in gangs, in drugs and crime.
The root cause of the aggression, lack of ethics, abuse and violence, power hunger and suppression, blind obedience, corruption, fear, envy and jealousy, greed or any anti-social or anti-human behavior (including destruction of nature) in Maldivian society is parents failing to be good examples and role models, to attend to the child’s needs, to stay connected to their children and nurture them to adulthood.
The vulture snaps up its prey
Disconnected from families, marginalised by social, economic and cultural forces, young people are pushed in the direction of gangs that provides peer support, sense of belonging, protections and strangely enough covers up for the relationships that they have not experienced at home and school.
Youth coerced into gangs and seemingly by lack of choice happens because parents have not been able to guide their child to make good judgments and have expected children to do what they are told to do (interpreted as a sign of obedience).
Although it may be hard to swallow, parents need to accept responsibility for what occurs in their child’s life. Poverty, low parental attachment to the child, and low parental supervision, lack of attention to child’s needs, all increase the probability of the child spending the youthful years in violence, drugs and gangs.
Additional risk factors are bad education systems leading to poor learning and consequent low success in school, low student commitment to school, and low attachment to teachers. The potential combination is associating with delinquent friends and unsupervised “hanging around” with these delinquent friends. Easy access to drugs and the lack of nurturing from parents (in additional to parents with resentful, violent attitudes) are high risk factors for young people’s involvement in gangs at a very young age. Drugs coexist with dealing and theft.
The point is lack of good parenting is the root cause for the increasing social issues arising in the Maldivian communities. The question is how do we bridge the gap, address the parent issue, support children, guide youth and create a better society.
Aminath Arif is the founder of SALAAM School
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